November 3, 2008
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital has been awarded the 2006-2007 Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention. In a letter announcing the award, George Crombie, Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources said “Thank you for your efforts to protect and enhance the quality of Vermont’s environment. Your award-winning project stands out as a model that should inspire all Vermonters to find innovative approaches to conserve natural resources, safeguard human and environmental health, and prevent pollution before it is generated.”
Hospital representatives accepted the award from Governor James Douglas; Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie; Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, George R. Crombie and Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, Laura Pelosi at the State House in Montpelier on Monday, April 21.
Among the statements read at the ceremony honoring NVRH was the following: “A healthy health care system clearly must be premised on motivated and engaged health care professionals for whom safeguarding the environment is integral and consistent with protecting the health of patients, staff, and the community. At Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, the commitment to care extends broadly as they continually strive for more healthful and sustainable operations.”
NVRH was one of ten organizations receiving the award. Winners were chosen based on a selection criteria that included: benefits to the environment; health and safety benefits; use of innovative approaches, techniques, and/or technologies; level of commitment and leadership in waste reduction and pollution prevention; ability of program or activity to serve as a model for other efforts and economic efficiency. NVRH was awarded for its “broad ranging environment friendly initiatives undertaken by a rural hospital.” NVRH is the first and only Vermont hospital to be recognized.
NVRH CEO Paul Bengtson is especially proud of the employee initiative in garnering the award. “I’m pleased that our employees are interested and dedicated to maintaining an on-going and pro-active approach in environmental health and safety, both for our planet and the human population. It’s also written into the hospital’s values statement, so it plays an important role in our identity.”
Environmental friendly initiatives at NVRH include:
The Environment of Care Committee at NVRH is responsible for reviewing and carrying out initiatives. The committee is structured to ensure that all elements of the environment are safe for patients, staff and visitors alike. NVRH has expanded this role to include initiatives aimed at minimizing the adverse impact of the hospital’s operations on the natural environment, both locally and beyond.
- Conversion from #4 fuel oil to #2 fuel oil, dramatically reducing sulfur emissions.
- Conversion from ethylene oxide to hydrogen-plasma sterilization, eliminating over 5 tons of green-house gas emissions and 1,000 pounds of ethylene oxide emissions.
- Recycling of corrugated cardboard is approximately 45 tons per year; recycling of white paper is approximately 10 tons per year. Toner cartridges are recycled after use. In 2008, the hospital invested in a new compactor, which enables commingled recyclable waste to be sent to a facility for separation in Burlington. The hospital will save by diverting less trash to the landfill and more toward recycling.
- Each year, the hospital provides on-site decontamination of approximately 38,000 pounds of bio hazardous material, which includes not only the hospital’s waste, but from the community as well.
- Resale of surplus (old) medical equipment. Surplus medical equipment is normally traded in on new equipment or sold through a broker. However, many times, surplus is donated to third world recipients through a not-for-profit intermediary.
- Elimination of medical devices and electrical switches containing mercury. Fluorescent tubes go to a reclamation facility. NVRH began the elimination of mercury years ago, and is a substantially mercury-free environment.
- Elimination of virtually all disposable styrofoam and plastic food service containers, and replaced it with reusable items. A small amount of disposable products remain for take-out orders, however, the products are paper or biodegradable.
- A selection of environmentally friendly chemicals, substantially reducing green house gas emissions. All bleach is purchased from sources using a mercury-free production process, therefore eliminating mercury in waste water.
Employees thanked and recognized for their contribution to this ongoing cause include: Pete Gummere, Terry Leach, Ann Creaser and the food service staff, Jim Coulson, Ron Drew and the maintenance staff, Ginny Flanders, Linda Lockwood and the SPD staff, Elaine Luther, Donna Racine, Pam Applebee, Bob Hersey, Laural Ruggles, Colleen Sinon, Veronica Hychalk and Paul Bengtson.